The Capitol Music Group held its fifth annual Capitol Congress at the Arclight Theater in Hollywood on Wednesday, highlighted by a daylong session of product presentations, panels, musical performances and a live podcast featuring Paul McCartney and “WTF” host and “Glow” star Marc Maron. The summit was capped off with a party on the back lot of the Capitol Tower complete with requisite food trucks, open bars, DJs and plenty of industry schmooze.
Capitol Music Group Chairman/CEO Steve Barnett greeted the crowd, before introducing UMG Chairman/CEO Lucian Grainge, who marveled at the label’s growth since being acquired by Universal in 2011 as part of its purchase of EMI. Grainge stated: “As much as our industry keeps changing and as much as we have led its transformation, one thing remains completely unchanged… that we are the world’s best partner for artists.”
And then they proceeded to prove it, with artist showcases from promising Asbury Park singer/songwriter Fletcher (“Undrunk”), Ypsilanti MI, R&B vocalist Queen Naija (“Medicine”) and Blue Note President Don Was playing stand-up bass with sax player Dave McMurray, accompanying Detroit poet Jessica Care Moore in a spoken-word tribute to the venerable label, which is about to celebrate an 80th anniversary with its own documentary. Hot newcomer Troye Sivan also debuted his next single, performing “Animal;” rapper NF was recognized for more than 3 million adjusted albums sold, including 3.5 billion streams; And video sizzles touted other new artists including critics’ darling Christine and the Queens and teenpop star Loren Gray.
There were product presentations from Capitol, Caroline/Harvest (GM Jacqueline Saturn. EVP Matt Sawin), Capitol Christian Music Group (Chairman/CEO Peter York), UMe (President/CEO Bruce Resnikoff), Astralwerks (GM Toby Andrews) and Motown (President Ethiopia Habtemariam), marking its upcoming 60th anniversary with a new documentary, “Hitsville: The Making of Motown,” featuring rare footage from founder Berry Gordy’s personal archives.
In addition, BBC’s Radio 1 and new in-house ad agency The Annex Tower Creative offered overviews, while the late Capitol Christian Music Group Chairman/CEO Bill Hearn was honored with a special “Bonus Tracks” scholarship award in his name.
Other highlights included a 30th anniversary celebration of MC Hammer’s 22-million-selling breakthrough album, “Please Hammer, Don’t Hurt Him,” with an interview conducted by UMe VP Urban Catalogue Andre Torres.
Capitol Music Group COO Michelle Jubelirer, who served as MC for much of the proceedings, and CFO Geoff Harris handed out the 2018 Tower Awards to honor several employees.
An Ethiopia Habtemariam-hosted panel on culture as the new mainstream included Live Nation Urban’s Shawn Gee (The Roots, Jill Scott), manager Chase Johnson (A$AP Rocky, Playboy Carti), Capitol Music Group EVP Dion “NoID” Wilson, former Cornerstone and Beats brand market expert Kristen Fraser and Quality Control founder Kevin “Coach K” Lee, the man behind Migos and Lil Yachty (also in attendance), among others. Additional CMG execs on hand included EVP Global Marketing and Commerce Robbie McIntosh, touting the new streamlined international team, and EVP of Promotion Greg Marella.
The star power was generated by Migos and Macca, the latter climaxing the afternoon’s activities with a 70-minute-plus conversation with Marc Maron. Among the revelations: that the only privilege he gets from knighthood was “being able to drive a flock of sheep through London.” McCartney also reminisced about late bandmate John Lennon, his adventures in Lagos, Nigeria making “Band on the Run,” and an evening in a night club, the Shrine, with African musician Fela Kuti, smoking weed so strong, he was tripping and imagining himself boiling in a cauldron surrounded by angry natives.
Part pep-rally motivator, part product presentation, part crystal-ball-gazing and part pat-on-the-back self-congrats, Capitol Congress brings back the idea of face-to-face communication in an era when most are conditioned to texts and emails. Or as Jubelirer put it in closing, “Thanks for coming to Steve Barnett’s bar mitzvah.”